Today, the measure of quality patient care and satisfaction involves how patients perceive their entire healthcare journey, making patient engagement an integral responsibility of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in providing the most patient-centered care.

Patient engagement strategies are primarily data-driven. They require the use and exchange of personal medical information to achieve optimal patient participation in every stage of the patient journey—an aspect of patient engagement that is delicate enough to endanger the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of a patient's protected health information (PHI).

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) guarantees that patient engagement activities uphold the safety and privacy of PHI. HIPAA compliance is, therefore, necessary for medical practices implementing patient engagement strategies. That makes patient engagement and HIPAA compliance inseparable responsibilities that providers must never disregard.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about patient engagement and HIPAA compliance.

Patient Engagement Promotes Healthcare Collaboration

Patient engagement is a patient-centered method that motivates patients to actively participate in their healthcare management. The more they engage, the more outcomes improve, and HCPs see optimized operational costs. Patient engagement includes the following activities that develop the patient-provider relationship into a more collaborative partnership and sustain it:

  • Providing patients with a convenient booking experience
  • Educating and keeping patients informed about their conditions and treatments
  • Monitoring and following up with patients on their medication
  • Reminding patients of future appointments, routine checkups, etc.
  • Updating patients on their laboratory results and diagnosis
  • Encouraging patients to visit regularly for preventive care
  • Inviting patients to learning sessions related to their conditions

Indeed, patient engagement is a holistic approach to driving patients to cooperate with their providers throughout their healthcare journey, from start to finish. It begins the moment patients seek you out online and book a consultation. The patient journey proceeds with the following, where you also integrate engagement strategies:

  • Patient intake
  • Examinations and lab tests
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment choices
  • Immediate relief
  • Medication education
  • Payment billing
  • Monitoring and follow-up

Each stage is an opportunity for medical practices to give patients a pleasant patient journey experience. It means that patients will not only feel healed but happy and satisfied as well—the cornerstones of patient loyalty and achieving a broader patient base.

The challenge of patient engagement is safeguarding all its activities from privacy and security threats with HIPAA compliance.

Why Is HIPAA Compliance Important in Patient Engagement?

Patient engagement strategies succeed only with the effective use of appropriate and available patient information. In medical practices, engaging patients usually involves their identifying information, such as:

  • Address and contact information
  • Biometric data
  • Laboratory test results
  • Healthcare billing
  • Insurance details

This information is what HIPAA categorizes as PHI, which is what the law principally protects from unauthorized access, misuse, and abuse by cybercriminals. PHI is vulnerable to these attacks because patient engagement strategies are more effective with creating, storing, and sharing electronic data over the internet.

As a federal law, HIPAA provides mechanisms for how covered entities, such as healthcare providers, health plan providers, and healthcare clearinghouses, must handle PHI. The HIPAA Privacy Rule covers the safeguards in disclosing PHI by the covered entities when providing high-quality patient care without compromising privacy. The HIPAA Security Rule expands protection coverage when covered entities transmit PHI electronically (ePHI), such as during patient engagement activities.

Violating HIPAA and its rules costs responsible parties penalties or criminal charges. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) receives HIPAA violation complaints and submits any available data to state attorneys to prosecute violators.

It is imperative that medical practices and all covered entities establish the necessary administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to keep ePHI from falling into the hands of criminals, endangering patient safety and business. HIPAA compliance is a must in patient engagement.

How to Remain HIPAA Compliant While Engaging Patients

It's tough for medical practices to engage patients to improve healthcare and patient satisfaction while ensuring that the information they share is safe. But, the task doesn't have to be hard if you know how to handle ePHI during patient engagements.

Educate and Train Staff About HIPAA and Compliance Measures

HIPAA compliance begins with knowledge and awareness. The more informed your staff is about HIPAA compliance while engaging patients and the security measures in place, the more efficient you become. Ensuring that they undergo education and training about these responsibilities secures your patient engagement strategies, your reputation, and your success.

Implement Privacy and Security Measures in All Your Patient Engagement Efforts

To comply with HIPAA while engaging patients, the law generally tasks covered entities to accomplish the following:

  • Secure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all PHI
  • Identify and safeguard PHI against anticipated threats
  • Safeguard against anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures
  • Guarantee compliance by their workforce

HCPs accomplish these by implementing the following measures.

Ask for Patient Consent

All patient engagement activities must always have the patient’s consent to the use of their information. You can ask your patients to consent before a virtual consultation or on their initial patient registration form. With health information technology, providers now may also acquire a patient’s consent through text messaging or email correspondence. Although, traditional ways of consenting through signing a paper document, or a voice call authorization remain an option.

Set Up Identity Verification and File Access Security Protocols

Make sure that only authorized persons can access your office files. And when sharing information with patients, make sure that only they can access it. Identity verification and access protocols use passwords, pins, or biometric data to prevent unauthorized access to files or networks.

Encrypt Everything That Handles PHI

Encrypting files, networks, processes, and communications anticipates threats passing through other security layers. Encryption also considers the possibility that patients are not conscious or diligent enough to follow safety protocols on their devices. HCPs shoulder the principal responsibility of encrypting from end-to-end the PHI they create, store, and share.

Successful patient engagement includes following the HIPAA guidelines and protecting PHI. To make the process easy, there is compliant patient engagement software.

Use Only HIPAA-Compliant Patient Engagement Tools Like Curogram

What we've discussed above provides layers of security to PHI, but the process and implementation can be daunting for a medical practice. Curogram can help. Using Curogram’s HIPAA-compliant patient engagement software tools offers medical practices convenience by saving them valuable time and avoiding falling prey to popular and free applications that do not pass HIPAA standards.

Use Curogram to guarantee your patient engagement is HIPAA compliant. It encrypts PHI and all the messages and files containing it from end to end, saving you from potential penalties and criminal liabilities. It's a feature-packed patient engagement platform that offers 2-way text messaging with patients, personalized appointment reminders, and a rating system while maintaining 100% HIPAA compliance.

Undoubtedly, patient engagement and HIPAA compliance are responsibilities HCPs carry out to provide quality care and succeed in the business. Fortunately, Curogram offers both in one patient-centric platform.

How to Remain HIPAA compliant while engaging with patients